To attack Iran would be sheer folly

America must normalise its engagement of Iran, not further vitiate it
Some analysts believe that the Bush administration’s decision to ratchet up sanctions against Iran is another step towards a pre-determined outcome: war with Iran. It would also be an act of folly.

In announcing sweeping new sanctions against an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, Bush administration officials took pains to offer assurances on Thursday that at least for now, the United States is not going to war with Iran.

“We do not believe that conflict is inevitable,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs. “This decision today supports the diplomacy and in no way, shape or form does it anticipate the use of force.”

The decision thus raised the temperature in American’s ongoing confrontation with Iran over terrorism and nuclear weapons.

“This is a warning shot across the bow, not that the U.S. is going to invade Iran, but that Iran has pushed the level of escalation, particularly inside Iraq, to unacceptable levels,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “In many ways, this kind of warning is more a demonstration of restraint than a signal that we’re going to war.” [NYT]

Sanctions might increase the “temperature” but that’s all they usually do. So other than being a gratuitous signal of hostility—in an already hostile, non-talking terms relationship—sanctions won’t achieve much. It’s not as if the smart people in the United States government do not know this.

If the ostensible reasons to impose sanctions include Iranian support for some factions fighting in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East and its nuclear weapons programme, why would ratcheting up hostility by another level help? It is unclear whether the Bush administration has assessed America’s capability to expand its two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan into one huge Middle Eastern theatre. [It’s a basic question, but after the manifest failures in Iraq that question needs to be asked]

In many ways, India is in a good position to bridge America and Iran, if the former were so inclined. There is a potential opportunity for India to leverage its good relations with both countries and move the region towards greater stability. But even if India had such intentions—creating grand geopolitical opportunities is normally outside India’s syllabus—does it have the capability to execute this? At the very least, instead of trying to rhetorically revive the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the wake of the crisis over the India-US nuclear deal, it would do well to at least attempt to alter America’s perilous course.

7 thoughts on “To attack Iran would be sheer folly”

  1. All I see here is a repeat of the lie that: “America is not interested in talking”. America has been working with the UN, the EU and TALKING

  2. Why is everything I read critical of the present tact of what America is taking? They ARE talking. They are utilizing the UN, and the EU. They have offered BIG “carrots”. Russia has offered “carrots”….yet the Iranians (who have been clandestinely working on this since the early 90’s) STILL won’t give the UN inspectors access. So what’s next? Your article gives no hint, nor any sort of “better” direction. Just more complaining about America.

    Diplomacy is nothing, unless it is backed up by action.

  3. Patvann,

    Talking? To whom? As we found out with North Korea, the best way to handle rogue regimes is to talk to them directly (the six party talks providing a convenient platform for everyone). And isn’t that what America was telling New Delhi—talk to Pakistan directly to stabilise the region, breaking off diplomatic relations is not the way to go, etc. So why is America talking to the UN and the EU etc, and not to Iran?

    What’s next? What’s the “better” direction? Well, I’ve already said it: talk to Iran directly.

    As for “just complaining about America” bit, you’ll have to distinguish between those who “just complain” and those who “complain”. I’m sure we are as tired of Americans being tired of anti-Americanism, as the Americans are of anti-Americanism, but that shouldn’t cause us to condone sheer folly on the part of the US government.

  4. Not sure if they assessed their military capabilities correctly, but I am sure, before announcing the sanctions, Paulson, ex-CEO of Goldman, has a very precise knowledge of the commodity-heavy broker’s oil contracts. Remember more than a month ago, Goldman predicted an “event” that would spike oil to $90. [link] Nothing like a little tension in middle-east to rescue the commodity sector from a two-week decline, in the middle of demand slowdown triggered by mortgage crisis and seasonality, margin issues at refineries, and a record high global crude storage level. Right now oil traded via NYMEX futures contracts is 10 times world consumption. [link]

  5. nitin –

    conventional wisdom is that if iran does go nuclear, saudi arabia and other sunni states will shortly follow – with eager help from pakistan. needless to say, such a scenario does not bode well for indian or global security. if you, like me, believe that iran should not be allowed to obtain nukes at any cost then we cannot rule away the military option – right? [north korea has the weapons so we have no choice but to talk.]

  6. i have a feeling that it will once again be the [under appreciated] state of israel which will do our dirty work.

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